The Sheffield Doc/Fest board of trustees have apologised to the festival’s outgoing programming team for “not communicating better” after their contracts ended following the departure of Cintia Gil as festival director due to “artistic differences” earlier this month.
On Friday (August 27) programmers Juliano Gomes, Qila Gill, Carlos Pereira, Christopher Small, Rabz Lansiquot, Soukaina Aboulaoula and Herb Shellenberger - who worked on the festival’s 2020 and 2021 editions - claimed in an open letter that after Gil’s departure they were “silently locked out of our email accounts and all traces of our presence at the festival—names, photos, information about our work—were scrubbed from the website”, adding that they received no note of termination.
The board of trustees responded today (August 31), saying: “We apologise to the signatories for not communicating better. We very much appreciate their contribution to the festival. Their fixed-term contracts ended in June 2021, after this year’s Festival but we welcome their candidacy for future programming roles.”
The board, which is chaired by Renegade Pictures CEO and co-founder Alex Cooke and also includes indie producers Brian Woods and Derren Lawford and ITV controller of factual Jo Clinton-Davis, also said they are ”currently working on our strategy” for the development of the festival, following criticism from the programming team that they prioritised “projects whose distribution future is already predetermined”.
Following the departure of Gil, director of partnerships Sylvia Bednarz has taken over as interim managing director.
The full statement is below:
“Sheffield DocFest’s purpose is to advance the art of film, education and training in documentary filmmaking, to showcase an outstanding selection of national and international non-fiction storytelling, and to celebrate documentary in all its many and evolving forms. We agree with the signatories of the letter, What is a film festival even for? that it is an important question to be asking. And it’s also important to ask, how does an artistic programme balance its subjects and perspectives, while simultaneously championing its filmmakers, growing its audiences and engaging its partners. These are questions we are currently addressing as we consolidate DocFest following recent leadership changes.
“We remain enthusiastic about the future of the festival and are currently working on our strategy with a view to the new leadership playing a role, with the Board, in determining how Sheffield DocFest develops.
“We apologise to the signatories for not communicating better. We very much appreciate their contribution to the festival. Their fixed-term contracts ended in June 2021, after this year’s Festival but we welcome their candidacy for future programming roles.”